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"I come from Eden," cried the preacher; "even from the Island of Koiau, which floats as a green leaf upon the untroubled sea. There reigneth eternal summer, but there reigneth not the Eternal God in the hearts of the heathen. Koiau is one of the dark places of the earth. There 'every prospect pleases, and only man is vile.' Yet the Lord hath not forgotten His people. The light of the gospel glimmers amid the gloom, and ours, brethren, must be the task of pouring oil into the lamp, that the flame may illuminate those who walk in darkness. Buli, the High Chief of the island, inclines his ear to the words of Salvation. He hath given a hostage to the Lord. Yea, verily; for doth not his only child abide in the tabernacles of Zion?--dwelleth she not in the land of Goshen? Tera she was: Bithiah she is, which, being interpreted, meaneth 'daughter of the Lord.' She, a brand plucked from the burning, shall yet herald the dawn of pure religion in her heathen cradle. 'It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.'"

The speaker, whose zeal thus confused his metaphors, was a herculean, weather-beaten man of some fifty years. He was clothed in rough blue serge. Wind and spray had reddened his rugged face. His hair and short beard, iron-grey and grizzled, were in disorder, and the light of enthusiasm brightened his deep-set grey eyes, peering from under their shaggy brows. He had the appearance of a sea-captain; and his raucous voice rumbled through the building as though it were carrying orders through the storming of a gale. Through long study of the Bible, he had become possessed of a certain elevated phraseology; and, couching his everyday experiences in this, he managed to deliver a lurid and picturesque discourse which enthralled his hearers.

Before him now, in the bare pitch-pine pews of their place of worship, some twenty or more of these were seated. They were demure folk, and their chapel was tiny--diminutive even. Its walls were innocent of decoration--simply whitewashed, its windows plain glass. Before a deal rostrum--up to which on either side led steps to a reading-desk--the preacher now gesticulated and thundered. The majority of the congregation were women; some old, some young; but all were clothed in the plainest of garments, their close Quakerish caps hiding their hair.

In contrast to these, their faces pallid and expression impassive, there sat, almost immediately below the missionary, a dark and splendid girl of twenty-two or thereabouts, with a vivacious smiling face. She was the Tera, alias Bithiah, so eloquently referred to by the speaker. In deference to her savage love of colour, and her rank as a king's daughter, she was permitted to indulge somewhat in feminine fripperies. Of this latitude she did not fail to take full advantage. No parrot of her native isles ever spread a finer plumage than did Tera. A dark blue dress, a bright scarlet shawl, a wonderful straw hat trimmed with poppies and cornflowers--she glowed like a sun-smitten jewel in that sombre conventicle. She was in no wise embarrassed by the pointed reference of the missionary. Her rank and good looks accustomed her to observation, and indeed, to admiration. Moreover, as a native convert, she was thought much of by the congregation at Grimleigh, and sat among them as a sign that the good work would prosper in the Island of Koiau. It was this impression that Korah Brand, former sailor and present missionary, wished to produce. Hence his use of her as an object-lesson.

Misterio y suspenso
diciembre 18
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria

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